Here are the best light and packable waterproof jackets for hiking and hillwalking, designed to stuff easily into a daypack but still give you reliable rain protection when the heavens open.
A resilient, heavyweight waterproof shell is a good option for more demanding hillwalking and mountaineering, especially in the winter. A lightweight waterproof jacket or rain jacket will serve for the rest of the year, especially during the warmer months. Especially if you’re travelling quickly and with a light load. This is frequent on hot day hikes, but it can also happen on camping trips where weight is an issue.
After all, in spring and summer your rain gear is likely to spend most of its time stuffed in your rucksack. With that in mind, it makes sense to carry a lighter and more packable jacket, especially one that is equipped with a stuff sack or pack pocket for maximum compressibility. A rain jacket also has numerous benefits when you’re actually wearing it. Typically, thinner fabrics are more breathable and feel less cumbersome, permitting greater freedom of movement. This can be a benefit during other outdoor activity such as trail running and mountain biking. In turn, this makes many rain jackets a very versatile bit of kit.
If you’re looking for something a bit more substantial, check out our guide to the Best all-season waterproof jackets to see what we thought of the ones we tested.
Words: Matthew Jones and Ellie Clewlow. Main image credit: Jessie Leong
Our picks of the best rain jackets
- Patagonia Women’s Storm 10 Jacket – $299 | £300 (available from alpinetrek.co.uk) – Best for women
- Montane Women’s Minimus Jacket – $239 / £175 (available from montane.com) – Recommended
- Alpkit Women’s Gravitas Jacket – $129.99 / £179.99 (available from alpkit.com)
- Black Diamond Women’s Stormline Stretch Rain Shell – $159 / £140 (available from Alpinetrek.co.uk)
- Keela Women’s Storm Jacket – £105 / International shipping ( available from keelaoutdoors.com)
- Montane Pac Plus – $239 / £220 (available from alpinetrek.co.uk) – Best for men
- RAB Zenith – $300 | £250 (available from cotswoldoutdoor.com) – Recommended
- Arc’teryx Beta – $400 | £320 (available from arcteryx.com)
- Berghaus Paclite Dynak – £170 / International shipping (available from alpinetrek.co.uk)
These jackets were tested by Matthew Jones and Ellie Clewlow. Matt and Ellie are outdoor writers and photographers living and working in Snowdonia, North Wales. Both reviewers tested these jackets extensively while hiking, climbing, trail running and backpacking in the hills and mountains of Snowdonia. The conditions the jackets were tested in would suit a variety of environments including Europe and America.
Best rain jackets for women
BEST BUY: Patagonia Women’s Storm 10 Jacket
- Price: $299 | £300 (available from alpinetrek.co.uk)
- Rating: 4.5/5
- Weight: 210g
- Pros: Lightweight and packable, comfortable, eco friendly
- Cons: Cost
Materials: 3-layer 20D 100% recycled ripstop nylon H2No | Features: Adjustable hood, full-length zip with storm flap, external chest pocket and two hand pockets with water-resistant zips, stuffs into left-hand pocket | Sizes: XS-XL | Men’s version: Yes
This is a very lightweight rain jacket that the brand says is designed “for moving fast and light through the mountains”, but it works well for hiking and hillwalking in the UK too. Real-world performance is excellent, and this jacket kept us dry and comfortable across a range of conditions. The Storm 10 is also nicely cut, with some good technical features. We particularly liked the protective hood, the two well-placed hand pockets and the outer chest pocket. This doubles as a pack pocket, ensuring the Storm10 takes up minimal space in your daysack.
See our full review of the Patagonia Women’s Storm10 Jacket
Recommended: Montane Women’s Minimus Jacket
- Price: $239 / £175 (available from montane.com)
- Rating: 4/5
- Weight: 170g
- Pros: Excellent hood, light and packable
- Cons: Durability, limited features
Weight: 170g | Materials: 2.5-layer Pertex Shield with 15D ripstop nylon face | Features: Adjustable helmet compatible rollaway hood with wired peak, YKK AquaGuard front zip with internal storm flap, mesh lined chest pack pocket | Sizes: UK 8-16 | Men’s version: Yes
This jacket is neatly cut and very packable. It uses a 2.5-layer construction with a Pertex Shield membrane bonded to a thin 15-denier ripstop nylon face fabric. It’s not the toughest, but it does keep the weight down. Inside, a dry touch lining ensures better comfort than most 2.5-layer shells. The jacket is also more functional than some minimalist ultralight shells, with fully adjustable cuffs and hem. Although there’s only the one chest pocket it is large enough to be genuinely useful. But the most impressive element is the excellent hood, which has three-way adjustment and a wired peak. So, despite being lightweight and compressible, this is a jacket that also feels reasonably protective.
Read our full review of the Montane Women’s Minimus Jacket
Alpkit Women’s Gravitas Jacket
- Price: £180 / International shipping available
- Rating: 3.5/5
- Weight: 185g
- Pros: Extremely lightweight and packable, trim cut
- Cons: Durability, limited features
Materials: 3-layer 100% recycled 10D nylon | Features: Adjustable hood with wired peak, semi-elasticated cuffs, chest pocket, water-repellent YKK centre zip | Sizes: UK 8-18 | Men’s version: yes
This is another featherweight sub-200g softshell rain jacket, but unlike most rivals it uses a 3-layer waterproof construction. This should offer better breathability and wicking performance compared to 2.5-layer alternatives, as well as improved comfort levels. It’s a nice jacket to wear, especially for fast-paced activity, such as biking and trail running as well as hiking. The focus is on functionality rather than features, but you still get a roomy chest pocket and a well-designed hood with a wired peak. It’s also extremely packable, which ensures it is easy to stash in your hillwalking pack.
Read our full review of the Alpkit Women’s Gravitas Jacket.
Black Diamond Women’s Stormline Stretch Rain Shell
- Price: $170 | £140
- Rating: 3.5/5
- Weight: 270g
- Pros: Lightweight, comfortable, stretchy
- Cons: Average breathability
Materials: 2.5-layer BD.Dry two-way stretch woven face with DWR finish (110gsm, 100% nylon) | Features: Stretch fabric, pit zips for ventilation, adjustable, climbing-helmet-compatible hood, pack pocket | Sizes: XXS-XXL | Men’s version: yes
This is another practical and affordably priced 2.5-layer softshell jacket. It isn’t quite as light or as packable as its rivals in this round-up, but it still weighs under 300g and includes some useful features, like generous pit zips for ventilation. It’s also made from a stretch fabric that makes for great comfort and mobility. All in all, it’s a solid performer as an everyday softshell jacket that can also front up to weekend hiking and hillwalking. It’s reliably waterproof, with a great hood, and though it can start to feel a little clammy when working hard, those pit zips at least help to dump heat fast.
See our full review of the Black Diamond Women’s Stormline Stretch Rain Shell
Keela Women’s Storm Jacket
- Price: £105 / International shipping available
- Rating: 3/5
- Weight: 248g
- Pros: Versatile, great fit, good hood
- Cons: Average breathability, some features not so hillwalker-friendly
Materials: Flylite Aqua nylon with PU membrane| Features: Fully adjustable hood, two zipped hip pockets, zipped chest pocket, zipped back pocket, thumb loops | Sizes: UK 8-20 | Men’s version: Yes (Keela Saxon)
If you’re an outdoorsy type who likes to bike and run as well as hike in the hills, Keela’s Storm softshell jacket is well worth a look. In this sense it’s similar to the women’s Montane Minimus and Alpkit Gravitas jackets reviewed here, though heavier than either of those rivals. On the flipside, however, it’s considerably cheaper and arguably more versatile too. In addition to a fully adjustable hood and cuffs, you get a drop tail, a zipped chest pocket and an unusual rear pocket. Admittedly, it’s a feature set that works better for cycling and trail running than hillwalking, but as a jack of all trades, this is still a good value buy.
See our full review of the Keela Women’s Storm Jacket
The best men’s rain jackets
BEST BUY: Montane Pac Plus
- Price: $239 / £220
- Rating: 4.5/5
- Weight: 283g
- Pros: A great all-rounder, excellent hood design.
- Cons: No pit zips.
Materials: 2-layer 30D nylon Gore-Tex Paclite Plus | Features: Fully adjustable hood with stiffened peak, stuffs away into own hand pocket | Sizes: S-XXL | Women’s version: yes
Our current top pick for a men’s lightweight waterproof softshell jacket, the Montane Pac Plus strikes a great balance between performance, weight and packability. It stuffs into its own pocket and takes up minimal space in a daysack, but if the heavens open it offers reliable weather protection thanks to the latest generation Gore-Tex Paclite Plus membrane. The 30D nylon face fabric is reasonably durable while keeping weight down. It’s also got a fully adjustable hood and two well placed hand pockets. The overall cut is fantastic too: trim fitting without feeling tight or restrictive. All in all, it’s a great option for hillwalkers.
Read our full Montane Pac Plus review here.
Recommended: RAB Zenith
- Price: $300 | £250
- Rating: 4/5
- Weight: 330g
- Pros: Low weight, venting pit zips
- Cons: Durability, very slim fit
Materials: 2-layer 13D nylon Gore-Tex Paclite Plus with 20D reinforcements | Features: Helmet compatible hood, venting pit zips, stuff sack included | Sizes: S-XXL | Women’s version: no
This is a lightweight technical mountain jacket, with a helmet-compatible hood, two chest pockets for accessibility even if wearing a climbing harness, and underarm pit zips for extra ventilation during high-output activity. The overall cut is slim fitting but offers good freedom of movement and plenty of length in the arms and torso. This keeps wrists and the lower back well covered, even when reaching up for holds whilst climbing or scrambling. So, it’s a great jacket for ‘fast and light’ technical mountain pursuits, including graded scrambles and climbs. Its only real drawbacks for this softshell jacket are that it isn’t the toughest, and some of its more technical features perhaps aren’t quite so well suited to hillwalkers.
Read our full review of the Rab Zenith.
- Price: $400 | £320
- Rating: 4/5
- Weight: 300g
- Pros: Comfort, performance, features, durability
- Cons: Cost
Materials: 3-layer Gore-Tex C-Knit 30D nylon | Features: Adjustable stiffened hood, Two water-resistant zipped hand pockets, internal zipped pocket, Laminated Vislon front zip with chin guard | Sizes: XS-XXXL | Women’s version: yes
This is the most expensive option on our list of the best lightweight waterproof jackets for men. But then, it’s not just a flimsy emergency layer – this is a true three-season mountain shell made from 3-layer Gore-Tex fabric. It offers excellent waterproof-breathable performance, plus great all-day comfort. The cut is roomier than some, but this does ensure full coverage and more room for layering. You also get two fully lined hand pockets plus a zipped inner pocket. The large, protective hood has a stiffened peak. All in all, it’s an impressive and versatile softshell jacket – and, we think, worth the money.
See our full Arc’teryx Beta Review
Berghaus Paclite Dynak
- Price: £170 / International shipping available
- Rating: 3.5/5
- Weight: 365g
- Pros: Very packable, useful pockets, good value
- Cons: Single hood adjustment, fractionally heavier than some rivals
Materials: Bluesign-approved 2L Gore-Tex Paclite (100% 75D polyester) with PFC-free DWR | Features: Two zipped hand pockets, adjustable hood with stiffened peak and chin guard, water resistant YKK zip | Sizes: S-XXL | Women’s version: yes
The Berghaus Paclite Dynak is a very good value softshell jacket that also packs away very neatly in a daysack. It’s reliably waterproof thanks to the Gore-Tex Paclite fabric, and remarkably comfortable thanks to a carbon inner backer that rarely feels clammy. The face fabric is polyester rather than nylon but is very sturdy. This does mean it is heavier than the rival jackets reviewed here, but we’d still class it as a lightweight jacket. Features are simple but effective, with good hand pockets and a decent hood.
Read our full Berghaus Paclite Dynak Review
Outdoor Research Helium
- Price: $159 | £140
- Rating: 3/5
- Weight: 172g
- Pros: Extremely light, packable, good value
- Cons: Boxy fit, limited features
Materials: 2.5 layer Pertex Shield 30D Diamond Fuse nylon | Features: Outer chest pack pocket, adjustable hood and hem, laminated main zip with chin guard | Sizes: S-3XL | Women’s version: yes
The final option in our list of the best lightweight waterproof jackets for men is the Outdoor Research Helium. This is a well-priced shell that is very popular with backpackers and thru-hikers in North America, and it’s easy to see why: it’s extremely lightweight and highly packable. It’s also tougher than you might think, with a 30-denier Diamond Fuse nylon ripstop face fabric. Waterproof-breathable performance is good. Fit and features are slightly limited, but for such a lightweight softshell jacket the Helium is well-built and durable – so it offers good value too.
Read our full Outdoor Research Helium Review.
How to look after your rain jacket
It’s worth looking after your waterproof jacket in order to ensure it continues to offer optimum performance throughout its lifetime. Outdoor expert Chris Townsend has given his top tips on how to look after your waterproof jacket.
What makes a good rain jacket?
- WEIGHT AND PACK SIZE
On milder days, a waterproof jacket will often sit in your pack for most of the day. As such, it makes sense to look for a light and packable shell, ideally with its own stuff sack or pack pocket. Our definition of a rain jacket is a waterproof that weighs less than 350g in a men’s size M. All the jackets in our test weigh around 350g or less in a men’s size M, or under 300g in a women’s size UK 12.
Rain jackets tend to have simpler hood designs than heavyweight mountain shells. However, you should still look for a hood that offers decent protection for the head and face, without obstructing your visibility.
Rain jackets tends to have a shorter and slimmer cut to save weight. Since they’re designed for milder conditions when you tend to wear fewer layers, this more tailored fit can work well. But make sure the jacket doesn’t feel tight across your shoulders or chest, and that sleeves cover your wrists fully.
A lightweight waterproof will never be as durable as a heavyweight mountain shell. But some are still surprisingly tough, especially those that are made from nylon (polyamide). This is a stronger fibre for its weight than polyester, so nylon fabrics offer good abrasion resistance despite being thin and lightweight.
Most lightweight rain jackets use a membrane or laminate construction to provide waterproofing. A 2 or 2.5-layer jacket uses a face fabric bonded to a membrane or laminate, with a thin film coating or sometimes a raised pattern (a ‘half layer’) to protect it. More advanced jackets use a 3-layer construction, which sandwiches the membrane between a durable face fabric and a soft tricot backer. The waterproof rating of a fabric is usually measured by Hydrostatic Head (HH). For UK hiking and hillwalking, look for a jacket with a HH rating of at least 10,000mm.
In outdoor clothing, the term ‘breathability’ refers to how much moisture can pass through the fabric. So, breathable jackets don’t necessarily keep you cool or stop you sweating, but they should move moisture away from the body to keep you mostly dry and comfortable. It is usually measured by a test called MVTR (moisture vapour transmission rate) or sometimes by RET (resistance to evaporative transfer). Look for higher MVTR ratings – ideally at least 8,000g/m2/24hrs – or a lower RET figure (a value of less than 6 is considered to be very good).
A laminated and/or reverse coil zip (with the teeth on the inside) improves water resistance. A chin guard at the top of the main zip will protect your face from irritation.
Rain jackets tend to have fewer and smaller pockets, though a zipped chest pocket is still a useful feature. If a jacket has hand pockets, ensure these are not obstructed by a rucksack hip belt.
Some jackets feature pit zips or mesh-lined pockets, which can be opened to increase airflow. Wide cuffs that can be pushed up the forearm can also aid cooling.